Fresno zoo's Malayan tiger cubs make public debut

The Fresno BeeMarch 11, 2014 

It's a jungle out there for a lot of tiger cubs but not for the Fresno Chaffee Zoo's Berani, Cinta, Arya and Batari.

They stepped outdoors before the public for the first time Tuesday. Nearly 300 people lined the tiger habitat for the cubs' public debut at 11 a.m.

They were welcomed like rock stars.

"They're adorable," said Lindsay Bradford of Madera, who was with sons Logan Briscoe, 7, and Carson Briscoe, 3. "I'm glad we have new animals, new babies."

Born Jan. 5, the cubs spent their first 63 days in the zoo's tiger barn out of public view. After they passed a "test run" outdoors Monday, the zoo put together a coming-out party. Now, the zoo plans for public viewings from 11 a.m. to noon weekdays and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekends.

TIGER BEAT: Stories, photo and video of the Fresno zoo cubs

"That's depending on the weather and mother permitting," says Lyn Myers, the zoo's assistant curator.

The cubs' mom, Mek, strutted proudly as she led the way outdoors Tuesday. Two cubs stepped out next to a hail of "oohs" and "ahhs." When the last two straggled a bit, mama went back to usher them out.

"Not every day you get to see something like this," said Mike Downing, who came with sons, Logan, 3, and Lian, who turns 2 in April.

Soon, the cubs frolicked.

Berani, a male, climbed a 4-foot-long log propped near the barn door. He also growled, inspiring little Lian to give his best growl.

"Sounds just like you," says Downing, smiling at Lian.

Mek clawed on the biggest log in the habitat before she rested and looked out at the admirers who clamored against the chain-link fence. Then, Cinta, also a male, nestled up to mom.

"The babies are mimicking mama -- and she's learning their behavior," said Fresno's Shiela Johnson, who was visiting the zoo with daughter Allison Johnson and granddaughter Emily McAtee.

"She's really nurturing them. She's a good mom," Allison Johnson said.

Sharon Bengtson of West Glacier, Mont., was visiting grandchildren in Fresno when she heard about the cubs and took granddaughter Grace Hangen, 4, to see them.

Bengtson marveled over how Mek walked across the habitat, sat down in a corner and waited patiently for the cubs to join her.

"She's teaching them to get along outside the den," Bengtson says. "We're getting a great show."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6304, or @ronorozco_bee on Twitter.

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